I’m an account manager at StaffGarden and I love my job. Essentially my job is to serve as matchmaker for nurses and hospitals.
If I’ve learned anything talking to nurses, it’s that nurses are some of the best people in the world–empathetic, compassionate, intelligent–and sometimes, when I get a call from the hiring manager that a nurse I loved didn’t get the job, it can be frustrating. We don’t always know exactly it was that made the hiring manager say no, but below I’ve listed a few reasons I hear more often than you’d think, and offer some suggestions for how you might better set yourself up for success.
You flaked on the initial interview
- This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how often I meet a great candidate who establishes a bad relationship with a hospital by not making it to their original scheduled interview time. I’ve worked with a lot of hiring managers and everyone’s different, but I’ve never met a hiring manager who takes kindly to someone showing up late or flaking on an interview without notice. One candidate emailed me an hour before her scheduled interview time letting me know she wouldn’t be able to make it due to something “urgent that came up.” She had 5 years of ICU experience and interviewed well on the phone. When I called the hiring manager to see if we could reschedule the answer was a hard “no.” I then had to call the candidate to pass on the bad news and she was upset explaining that she was very interested in the position. I had to tell her that the hospital simply no longer trusts she’d be reliable.
- If you absolutely have to cancel, the only safe way to do so is to inform us well in advance of your scheduled interview time providing a good reason for cancelling. Usually this means at least 24-48 hours. There can be lots of good reasons for cancelling interviews and hiring managers understand that you’re human–but emailing us an hour before your interview time without specifying the reason you’re cancelling will almost guarantee a lost opportunity.
You were difficult to reach.
- I hear this from hiring managers all the time. I’ll ask, “How did the interview go with Mary?” only to hear, “Well, I’ve left her three voicemails to ask her to fill out her online application and she hasn’t gotten back to me. I’m starting to think she’s not interested.”
- After an in-person interview, it’s extremely important that you remain alert and responsive. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting a call from a hiring manager telling me that they’ve tried to reach you to extend an offer but they can’t get a hold of you. Obviously we understand that it’s unreasonable to expect constant vigilance, but please check your voicemails! Managers start to worry about the way you’ll work if they feel they have to work extra hard to communicate with you.
You didn’t express excitement about the position.
- Not every job is going to be your dream job. Sometimes you’re looking for a per diem position to get a little extra income, or maybe you’re a nurse without critical care experience settling for a med/surg job while you wait to get into the emergency department. That being said, if you’ve decided to take the time to go through the application process and agree to a time to come meet the hiring manager in person, we’re going to assume you’re invested in this opportunity. Too often I hear from hiring managers, “when we brought him in he didn’t really seem interested.” Hiring managers don’t want to extend an offer to someone who might begrudgingly accept it. They’re trying to build a team. And if they feel like your heart won’t be in it, they’re unlikely to want to work with you.
With that in mind, sometimes you’re going to need to take jobs or interview for jobs you might not be super excited about. We understand that. I have two big recommendations for those scenarios:
Don’t begrudge a necessary step on your career advancement ladder
- As someone who looks at resumes and talks to hiring managers all day, I can tell you that a year of med/surg experience can massively broaden the opportunities you’ll be considered for. So, when you go in for that med/surg interview knowing that eventually you’d like to get into the ED, slap a smile on your face and get excited about all the things you’ll learn working in med/surg! Take a deep breath and know that good things come to those who are ready to do what it takes.
Don’t take interviews for jobs you know you’d hate
- Seriously. If you know you don’t want the position, don’t go! It’s not worth wasting your time or theirs. I’ve had unenthusiastic candidates make such a bad impression on hiring managers that the manager calls me to warn me not to send this candidate in for interviews at other hospitals. That’s not a call you want made about you. Some hospitals belong to the same hospital system. Maybe you didn’t really want the per diem PCU job at Heart of Florida, but in a few months an opening comes up for a full-time ICU day shift at Lake Wales that’s always been your dream. If you interviewed poorly for the PCU job, Lake Wales will likely not want to see you for the job you really want as those hiring managers probably know and communicate with one another.
- Don’t begrudge a necessary step on your career advancement ladder
You expressed fear or reluctance about training
- Some jobs are going to require you to go out of your comfort zone. Switching to a department that’s higher in acuity will always require a go-getter attitude and a willingness to learn. If, when you hear about the training required for a position, your eyes go blank, the hiring manager is going to be concerned.
- Even if the job is something you feel overqualified for, expressing enthusiasm about the position and assuring them you’re always learning can make a huge difference. Often, a hiring manager will choose a less-qualified candidate that expressed more enthusiasm to learn over someone with more experience because the former will bring more to the team.
You didn’t tell us about a mark on your license
- Having a mark on your license shouldn’t end your career! But being dishonest about past disciplinary action taken against you will almost guarantee that you’ll be put on any hospital’s do-not-contact list.
- If you’re open about what happened in the past, that proves you’ve grown and are willing to learn from your mistakes. Being dishonest will never help you. We’ll always confirm your license and we’ll always report marks on your license to the hospital, whether you’re honest with us about them or not.
You came unprepared
- I’ve been there. Everything that could possibly have gone wrong in the 20 minutes before I needed to leave went wrong. The printer broke, the baby was crying, the dog tore through the trash–I get it. But coming to an interview without a resume, your RN license, and references can come across as sloppy no matter the extenuating circumstances. The best thing to do is to get all these documents ready the day before. You can also always call us at Staff Garden for last minute help! If you’ve just had one of those days and you’re running 15 minutes late without a copy of your resume, it’s much better to call us or the hiring manager to let us know what’s going on rather than to offer no explanation.
You set unrealistic expectations
- This can come in a number of different forms. Either you expected to be offered more pay, or you expected to be offered a position for which you had no previous experience. Of course, it’s important to know your worth and I’d never advocate accepting a salary that you know is below average, but be aware that, like any other job, your growth in the nursing career will happen over time and salary is often negotiated based on experience. I know it can be frustrating starting out and I can understand wanting to wait and see if something better comes along, but be mindful as you do so that you don’t burn bridges you might want access to in the future.
You didn’t provide an explanation for gaps in your resume
- Almost every nurse I talk to has some kind of gap in their work experience. Whether it be a few months between jobs or a few years taken off to have a family, there are all kinds of reasons you could have stopped working for a certain period of time. A gap in your resume doesn’t preclude you from getting a position, but not offering explanation for time spent not working comes across as odd. Just taking a quick moment to say, “I took off six months for medical reasons” can entirely change the way a manager views your resume.
- If you have a large gap in your resume, say you worked in labor and delivery for 7 years and then have been out of the hospital for the past 5, be aware that a hospital will likely need you to take a refresher course or re-train you in accordance with updated procedure. That’s not to say your previous experience doesn’t count, it absolutely does, but making sure that all of your certifications are up-to-date and investing in a refresher course will infinitely increase your odds of getting an offer.
You struggle with a language barrier
- This is a difficult one. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about this as I work directly with two hospitals who simply will not hire non-fluent English speakers. It is not at all our desire to discriminate against non-English speakers, and we understand that speaking Spanish or any other language can be a life-saving asset especially in hospitals who serve multi-lingual patient populations, as most hospitals do. But, consider that an inability to understand or be understood speaking English can hinder your ability not only to communicate with your supervising physicians but also with some patients. That can put a patient in danger.
- Investing in English classes and taking the time to practice can greatly broaden your opportunities.
Sometimes it’s just not on you
- Sometimes you’ve done absolutely everything you could do to present yourself well to a hospital and they still don’t extend you an offer. I’m always disappointed when this happens and I too have been thoroughly stumped in some scenarios because a wonderful candidate didn’t get the job. If this has happened to you, don’t let it get you down! Sometimes there was really nothing more you could do; sometimes the hospital misses an opportunity by letting you go.